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Top 10 local news stories of 2019

Shocking violence targeting LGBTQ people in D.C. tops our list

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We promise to stop writing about ourselves in 2020 after spending much of last year celebrating the Washington Blade’s milestone 50th anniversary. But we are including that event in this roundup of 2019’s top local news stories:

No. 10 Blade celebrates 50th anniversary

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Mayor Muriel Bowser and Blade Editor Kevin Naff at the Washington Blade’s 50th Anniversary Gala on Oct. 18. (Washington Blade photo by Zach Brien)

The Washington Blade on Oct. 18 celebrated the 50 anniversary of its founding in 1969 at a gala dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel at the Wharf in Southwest D.C.

A number of prominent activists and public officials joined the Blade’s staff and contributors at the celebration, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who issued a proclamation declaring Oct. 18, 2019 Washington Blade Day. Also attending and speaking at the event was U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the senior openly gay member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Broadway star Frenchie Davis sang at the gala event as did the singing ensemble Potomac Fever, which is part of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.

Through exhibits and a presentation at the gala and throughout the year in its weekly editions and on its website the Blade has highlighted aspects of its 50-year history of covering the LGBTQQ community, the LGBTQ rights movement and the societal changes surrounding the rights of LGBTQQ people in the metro D.C. area, nationally and internationally.

No. 9 Town nightclub plans to reopen in former D.C. church

Town Danceboutique closing, gay news, Washington Blade
The Ladies of Town wave goodbye to their fans. (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Owners of the former LGBTQ nightclub Town Danceboutique announced in August plans to reopen under the tentative name of Town 2.0 in a former church on North Capitol Street about a half-mile north of the U.S. Capitol.
The announcement came a little over a year after the popular club closed its location at 8th Street and Florida Avenue, N.W. where it operated for more than 10 years when the building it rented was sold to a developer that has since demolished it to build an apartment complex.

“After two full years of searching for a potential new space for a nightclub for the LGBTQ community, we are excited to confirm that we have found a space that has remarkable potential,” the Town owners said in a statement in August. But about two months later, opposition surfaced to the plans for a nightclub in the former St. James Baptist Church by the owners and tenants at an apartment building that abuts the former church.

Observers say Town made a strong case for how it will soundproof the church building to prevent noise from reaching the apartment building and its residents at a Dec. 4 hearing before the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which is expected to decide on whether to approve a license to allow Town to open in the church building sometime within 90 days of the December hearing.

No. 8 Deadlocked jury in trial of men charged in trans murder

Dodds verdict, gay news, Washington Blade
About 70 demonstrators turned out to protest a hung jury outcome in the murder of transgender woman Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge in April agreed to a request by prosecutors to schedule a second trial for two men charged with the July 4, 2016 murder of D.C. transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds.

The decision by Judge Milton C. Lee to schedule a new trial, initially set for Feb. 25, 2020 but later changed to June 22, 2020, came one month after the jury in the first trial announced it was deadlocked over the pending charge of first-degree murder while armed against D.C. residents Monte Johnson, 23, and Jolonta Little, 28, prompting Lee to declare a mistrial. 

No. 7 Whitman-Walker restructures, opens Liz building

The Liz, gay news, Washington Blade
The exterior of the Liz building, now open on 14th Street. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In what it called a newly adopted “shared leadership model,” Whitman-Walker Health announced in January that its then-CEO Don Blanchon would become the founding CEO of a newly created nonprofit entity called Whitman-Walker System.

In the same announcement, Whitman-Walker said its then-Deputy Executive Director Naseema Shafi would replace Blanchon as CEO.

In an open letter to the community, Whitman-Walker said the shared leadership between Blanchon and Shafi was part of a major restructuring of its departments and divisions aimed at strengthening its wide range of healthcare programs and its ability to raise funds to sustain and expand those programs.

One of the endeavors Whitman-Walker officials say the restructuring is intended to bring about was the Nov. 6 official reopening of Whitman-Walker’s Elizabeth Taylor Building at 14th and R streets, N.W. The new six-story, mixed use, multimillion dollar building is part of a joint venture development project that Whitman-Walker entered into with a real estate development company

No. 6 Grosso leads fight to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

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D.C. Council member David Grosso expressed his support for the nationwide effort to decriminalize sex work among consenting adults. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.

LGBTQ rights advocates were among the strongest supporters of legislation reintroduced in 2019 by D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large) to decriminalize sex work in D.C.

In his effort to build support for the decriminalization legislation Grosso has pointed out that transgender sex workers have been among those he believes are being harmed by the city’s current laws against prostitution that result in arrests rather than more productive ways to address the issue.

More than 160 witnesses testified for and against Grosso’s bill, the Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019, during a contentious 14-hour D.C. Council hearing in October. There was insufficient consensus and overall support for the bill to bring it up for a vote in the full Council in 2019. Grosso vowed to continue efforts to advocate for the bill in 202

No. 5 Changes in Maryland politics

Maryland state Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore City) on Nov. 20, 2019, formally announced she is running for mayor of Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Walter Ludwig)

The announcement by lesbian State Sen. Mary Washington (D-Baltimore) that she is a candidate for the office of mayor of Baltimore, the passing of civil rights icon and pro-LGBTQ U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and news that longtime Maryland State Senate President Mike Miller was stepping down from that position after serving for 32 years were among the 2019 developments important to LGBTQ rights advocates in Maryland.

Washington’s announcement that she was entering the Baltimore mayor’s race came one year after she became the first openly LGBTQ person of color to win election to the Maryland Senate. Prior to her 2018 election to the State Senate Washington served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2011.

Miller is credited with playing an important role in helping to pass LGBTQ rights legislation in Maryland despite his social conservative leanings. Although he said he could not personally support same-sex marriage he allowed legislation legalizing same-sex marriage to advance through the House of Delegates and even took steps to prevent opponents from blocking the bill.

No. 4 New Archbishop of D.C. has pro-LGBTQ record

Wilton D. Gregory, gay news, Washington Blade
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory told a trans Catholic that, ‘You belong to the heart of this church.’

A comment in September by D.C.’s Archbishop Wilton Gregory in support of a transgender man at a public event appeared to confirm the optimism of LGBTQ Catholic activists that he would continue his past policies of welcoming LGBTQ Catholics into the fold of the church.

In April Pope Francis named Gregory, 71, as the new Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, and Gregory was installed into the position on May 21. LGBTQ Catholics familiar with Gregory said he has a record of recognizing and welcoming LGBTQ Catholics during his tenure as Archbishop of Atlanta for the 14 years prior to his appointment as head of the Washington Archdiocese.

No. 3 Report reveals scores of undisclosed D.C. hate crimes

At least eight but probably many more anti-LGBTQ hate crimes took place in D.C. in 2018 that D.C. police and prosecutors didn’t publicly disclose, according to an August 2019 investigative report by the Washington Post.

The post report, which examined police and court records of all 204 incidents designated by D.C. police as hate crimes in 2018, uncovered eight initially undisclosed cases of anti-LGBTQ violence or threats listed by police as hate crimes. One involved a Feb. 2, 2018 incident in which a lesbian was shot in the chest by a co-worker at an outdoor jobsite after the male co-worker harassed her over her sexual orientation.  

The Post found that out of the 204 reported hate crime cases in D.C. in 2018, police made an arrest in 59 of those cases involving adults. But the Post found that the U.S. Attorney’s office dropped the hate crime designation in all but three of those cases.

No. 2. Danica Roem re-elected; Dems win control of Va. legislature

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks to supporters following her re-election on Nov. 5, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., won election to a second term on Nov. 5, defeating by a margin of 57-43 percent a Republican opponent who was backed by an anti-LGBTQ organization.

Similar to her first successful election campaign two years earlier, Roem emphasized in her 2019 campaign her support for the expansion of Virginia’s Medicaid program and efforts she has led to reduce traffic congestion on Route 28, a major highway in her district.

An anti-LGBTQ group that supported Roem’s GOP opponent, Kelly McGinn, and the Prince William Republican Committee, attacked Roem based on her gender identity.

In a development that LGBTQ rights advocates in Virginia have called a major breakthrough, Democrats won control of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly in the November election, clearing the way, according to most political observers, for the passage of a statewide LGBTQ rights law in 2020.

No. 1 Record number of violent anti-LGBTQ attacks in D.C.

A large tapestry with Ashanti Carmon’s image was displayed at the church altar during a memorial service. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The year 2019 saw what many LGBTQ activists believe to be a record number of violent attacks or threats against LGBTQ people in the D.C. area.

Two transgender women, Ashanti Carmon and Zoe Spears, were shot to death in the same suburban Maryland town of Fairmount Heights just across the D.C. line on March 30 and June 13. A gay man, Vongell Lugo, was stabbed to death in his D.C. apartment on Jan. 6.

There were 13 separate incidents of assaults and robberies of gay men and transgender women in D.C. who police believe were targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Prince George’s County police have arrested 33-year-old Geraldo Thomas of Baltimore in the Spears murder and D.C. police have arrested 26-year-old Virginia resident Colin Potter in the Lugo case. Police say they have yet to confirm a motive in both of those cases.

But in nearly all of the 13 assaults and robbery cases, with arrests made in seven of them, D.C. police have listed the incidents as suspected anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. In separate incidents, one on April 15 and the other on June 16 – both in the U Street, N.W. entertainment area where several gay bars are located – a gay male couple was attacked, beaten, and robbed by groups of male suspects who yelled anti-gay slurs.

In the June 16 incident, Braden Brecht, 21, and his boyfriend, Karl Craven, 24, were attacked by a group of more than a dozen male assailants, witnesses told D.C. police, who have arrested two juvenile males and a 19-year-old male in connection with the incident.

From left, Karl Craven and his boyfriend, Braden Brecht, spent several hours in the emergency room after a group of men attacked them on U Street on June 16, 2019.
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D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011

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A D.C. man arrested in August 2020 for allegedly threatening to kill a gay man outside the victim’s apartment in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and who was released while awaiting trial was arrested again two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill another man in an unrelated incident.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Jalal Malki, who was 37 at the time of his 2020 arrest on a charge of bias-related attempts to do bodily harm against the gay man, was charged on May 4, 2021 with unlawful entry, simple assault, threats to kidnap and injure a person, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon against the owner of a vacant house at 4412 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Court charging documents state that Malki was allegedly staying at the house without permission as a squatter. An arrest affidavit filed in court by D.C. police says Malki allegedly threatened to kill the man who owns the house shortly after the man arrived at the house while Malki was inside.

According to the affidavit, Malki walked up to the owner of the house while the owner was sitting in his car after having called police and told him, “If you come back here, I’m going to kill you.” While making that threat Malki displayed what appeared to be a gun in his waistband, but which was later found to be a toy gun, the affidavit says.

Malki then walked back inside the house minutes before police arrived and arrested him. Court records show that similar to the court proceedings following his 2020 arrest for threatening the gay man, a judge in the latest case ordered Malki released while awaiting trial. In both cases, the judge ordered him to stay away from the two men he allegedly threatened to kill.

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police in the 2020 case states that Malki allegedly made the threats inside an apartment building where the victim lived on the 2300 block of Champlain Street, N.W. It says Malki was living in a nearby building but often visited the building where the victim lived.

“Victim 1 continued to state during an interview that it was not the first time that Defendant 1 had made threats to him, but this time Defendant 1 stated that if he caught him outside, he would ‘fucking kill him.’” the affidavit says. It quotes the victim as saying during this time Malki repeatedly called the victim a “fucking faggot.”

The affidavit, prepared by the arresting officers, says that after the officers arrested Malki and were leading him to a police transport vehicle to be booked for the arrest, he expressed an “excited utterance” that he was “in disbelief that officers sided with the ‘fucking faggot.’”

Court records show that Malki is scheduled to appear in court on June 4 for a status hearing for both the 2020 arrest and the arrest two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill the owner of the house in which police say he was illegally squatting.

Superior Court records show that Malki had been arrested three times between 2011 and 2015 in cases unrelated to the 2021 and 2020 cases for allegedly also making threats of violence against people. Two of the cases appear to be LGBTQ related, but prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not list the cases as hate crimes.

In the first of the three cases, filed in July 2011, Malki allegedly shoved a man inside Dupont Circle and threatened to kill him after asking the man why he was wearing a purple shirt.

“Victim 1 believes the assault occurred because Suspect 1 believes Victim 1 is a homosexual,” the police arrest affidavit says.

Court records show prosecutors charged Malki with simple assault and threats to do bodily harm in the case. But the court records show that on Sept. 13, 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen F. Eilperin found Malki not guilty on both charges following a non-jury trial.

The online court records do not state why the judge rendered a not guilty verdict. With the courthouse currently closed to the public and the press due to COVID-related restrictions, the Washington Blade couldn’t immediately obtain the records to determine the judge’s reason for the verdict.

In the second case, court records show Malki was arrested by D.C. police outside the Townhouse Tavern bar and restaurant at 1637 R St., N.W. on Nov. 7, 2012 for allegedly threatening one or more people with a knife after employees ordered Malki to leave the establishment for “disorderly behavior.”

At the time, the Townhouse Tavern was located next door to the gay nightclub Cobalt, which before going out of business two years ago, was located at the corner of 17th and R Streets, N.W.

The police arrest affidavit in the case says Malki allegedly pointed a knife in a threatening way at two of the tavern’s employees who blocked his path when he attempted to re-enter the tavern. The affidavit says he was initially charged by D.C. police with assault with a dangerous weapon – knife. Court records, however, show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office lowered the charges to two counts of simple assault. The records show that on Jan. 15, 2013, Malki pleaded guilty to the two charges as part of a plea bargain arrangement.

The records show that Judge Marissa Demeo on that same day issued a sentence of 30 days for each of the two charges but suspended all 30 days for both counts. She then sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for both charges and ordered that he undergo alcohol and drug testing and undergo treatment if appropriate.

In the third case prior to the 2020 and 2021 cases, court records show Malki was arrested outside the Cobalt gay nightclub on March 14, 2015 on multiple counts of simple assault, attempted assault with a dangerous weapon – knife, possession of a prohibited weapon – knife, and unlawful entry.

The arrest affidavit says an altercation started on the sidewalk outside the bar when for unknown reasons, Malki grabbed a female customer who was outside smoking and attempted to pull her toward him. When her female friend came to her aid, Malki allegedly got “aggressive” by threatening the woman and “removed what appeared to be a knife from an unknown location” and pointed it at the woman’s friend in a threatening way, the affidavit says.

It says a Cobalt employee minutes later ordered Malki to leave the area and he appeared to do so. But others noticed that he walked toward another entrance door to Cobalt and attempted to enter the establishment knowing he had been ordered not to return because of previous problems with his behavior, the affidavit says. When he attempted to push away another employee to force his way into Cobalt, Malki fell to the ground during a scuffle and other employees held him on the ground while someone else called D.C. police.

Court records show that similar to all of Malki’s arrests, a judge released him while awaiting trial and ordered him to stay away from Cobalt and all of those he was charged with threatening and assaulting.

The records show that on Sept. 18, 2015, Malki agreed to a plea bargain offer by prosecutors in which all except two of the charges – attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and simple assault – were dropped. Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. on Oct. 2, 2015 sentenced Malki to 60 days of incarnation for each of the two charges but suspended all but five days, which he allowed Malki to serve on weekends, the court records show.

The judge ordered that the two five-day jail terms could be served concurrently, meaning just five days total would be served, according to court records. The records also show that Judge Irving sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for each of the two counts and ordered that he enter an alcohol treatment program and stay away from Cobalt.

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Biden names civil rights veteran to U.S. Education Dept.

Catherine Lhamon’s portfolio will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct, racial discrimination

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Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon. (Photo public domain))

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon currently serves as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity at the White House, where she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. She is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021.

She has also served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Her portfolio at Education, where she previously served in the same position under former President Barack Obama, will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools, universities and colleges. Lhamon was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, to which President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed her in 2013.

“I am thrilled that President Biden is nominating Catherine Lhamon to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Catherine has devoted her career to ensuring equity is at the core of all her work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement released by his office Thursday.

“She has a strong record of fighting for communities of color and underserved communities, whether as the current Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, or as a civil rights educator at Georgetown University. We are thrilled to have Catherine serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and know she will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students.”

Lhamon has also litigated civil rights cases at National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel Law Center, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  Lhamon taught federal civil rights appeals at Georgetown University Law Center in the Appellate Litigation Program and clerked for the Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Catherine Lhamon is the right choice to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights at such a critical time for the country and the agency. There is much work to do in order to roll back the harmful policies and legacies of Betsy DeVos, from her attacks on transgender students to her unconscionable revocation of discriminatory discipline guidance and rewrite of Title IX rules,” Adele Kimmel, Director of the Students’ Civil Rights Project at Public Justice told the Blade in an email.

“During her previous tenure in the same job, Catherine embraced equality, enforced Title IX and ensured students had an ally inside the federal government. She will do so again, and the Senate should move to quickly confirm her so she can begin the work of restoring the Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights and dignity of students and implementing the Biden Administration’s pledge to undo the damage that DeVos has done,” Kimmel added.

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Lhamon graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Lhamon and her husband and two daughters are transitioning between California and Maryland.

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IDAHOBiT events to promote intersectionality, resilience, allyship

HRC president to participate in virtual panel in Canada

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(Photo courtesy of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia committee)

 

Intersectionality, resilience and allyship are among the themes that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia events will highlight.

Dignity Network Canada and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention on May 17 will hold a virtual panel that will feature Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity Executive Director Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, COC Nederland Executive Director Marie Ricardo and Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. The British High Commission and the Dutch Embassy in Canada have co-sponsored the event.

“We hope that this will be a really interesting and important conversation on intersectionality and transnational solidarity — and what it means for these leaders and their organizations during these times,” reads a description of the event.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will host a virtual IDAHOBiT event that will focus on ways to develop an “inclusive and diverse post-pandemic world.” The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks host a similar IDAHOBiT commemoration.

“In order to heal from the economic, social, and public health dire impact the pandemic has had and still has, every plan of recovery must take into account a human-rights based, intersectional and gender responsive approach that addresses the specific needs of LGBTI persons in order not to leave them further behind,” reads a description of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group event.

Several Russian LGBTQ rights groups on May 17 will hold a “Vaccine for Acceptance” event that seeks to bolster allyship in the country.

Retired South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron on May 16 will moderate a virtual panel that will focus on religion and anti-LGBTQ violence.

Workplace Pride and the Dutch Embassy in Budapest on May 17 will host a symposium on LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces in Hungary. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, on the same day will participate in a webinar the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is hosting with Oogachaga, a local LGBTQ advocacy group.

Haver Srbija, a Serbian NGO, on May 15-16 will hold Falafel, a film festival that seeks to build “bridges and promotes Israeli, Jewish and LGBTQI culture and communities” and highlight “various social issues in the context of the fight against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia and encourages the audience to develop critical thinking on the issue of these topics.” Proud Lebanon is slated to hold a series of six webinars between May 17-22 that will focus on feminism, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

The National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba will hold a series of virtual forums and other events through the month to commemorate IDAHOBiT.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, whose father is former Cuban President Raúl Castro, during a May 4 press conference in Havana said the IDAHOBiT events are part of the process of amending the country’s family code to make it more equitable for LGBTQ Cubans. Mariela Castro said a bill to amend it will be introduced in the Cuban Parliament in July.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference, according to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s events will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups around the world.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries. Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains rampant in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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